Breastfeeding a Cleft Lip and/or Cleft Palate Baby
With the birth of a child who has a cleft lip, palate, or both a cleft lip and palate, comes many uncertainties regarding the cause, effect and repair of the cleft. The mother may also be concerned about her ability to care for and feed her baby. These uncertainties can affect the early bonding phases of parenting.

Breastfeeding a child born with a cleft lip or palate assures that mother and baby spend lots of cuddling time together. If breastfeeding is initiated right after birth, closeness between mother and baby will be enhanced. Mothers and babies find the skin to skin contact during breastfeeding calming and comforting.

The soft breast is ideal for the baby's mouth. The flexibility of the breast allows it to be molded to compensate for abnormalities of the baby's lip or mouth. The baby has more control over the flow of milk and the position of the breast in his/her mouth. Early practice helps baby imprint on the breast.

Although choking due to milk leakage into the nose is a common problem when there is an opening in the soft or hard palate, human milk is a natural bodily fluid that is not irritating to the mucous membranes. Therefore, breastmilk is the optimal choice for feeding a cleft lip or palate baby.

A baby needs to suck for comfort as well as nourishment. Breastfeeding allows a baby to spend time at the breast sucking for comfort as well as for feeding. At The Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters, we encourage breastfeeding after surgical repair.

Prior to the repair and possibly immediately after surgery, mother may find that they need to stimulate their milk supply with an electric breast pump. Pumped milk can be fed to the baby by bottle, finger feeding, cup feeding or supplementary feeding at the breast to assist in maintaining the baby's nutritional needs.

The Children's Hospital of The King's Daughter's has Lactation Consultants (Breastfeeding Specialists) available to mothers and families throughout the breastfeeding experience. The consultants are available to provide support and to answer questions.

Breastfeeding early after surgical repair is encouraged at the Children's Hospital. As members of the craniofacial team, the lactation consultants, work collaboratively with the other team to help our mothers achieve breastfeeding success. The goal of the entire team is to make the surgical repair a positive experience by encouraging bonding, good nutrition and optimal growth for the child.

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